Germany and France’s recent military deployments in the Indo-Pacific highlight Nato’s growing concern about China, according to a military analyst.

The German Air Force has sent 13 military aircraft to the region for the first time to take part in the multinational Pitch Black exercises in Australia and last year sent a warship to the South China Sea for the first time in 20 years.

“We want to demonstrate that we can be in Asia within a day,” Lt Gen Ingo Gerhartz, the air force’s chief of staff, said after the force of fighters, multi-role jets and transport planes left Germany.

The aircraft will also take part in exercises with their Australian and Singaporean counterparts, with smaller air fleets visiting Japan and South Korea.

Sun Keqin, a research fellow at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said Germany had made a shift in its security policy after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February “broke some restrictions”.

He said the deployment comes against the backdrop of Nato declaring that China was a systemic “challenge” – the first time the alliance had mentioned the country in its mission statement.

“The Indo-Pacific is the focus of the US and it shows Germany is coordinating with the US, which is a rival of China’s,” Sun said,

Nato has declared China a security challenge. Photo: EPA-EFE

Germany and France’s recent military deployments in the Indo-Pacific highlight Nato’s growing concern about China, according to a military analyst.

The German Air Force has sent 13 military aircraft to the region for the first time to take part in the multinational Pitch Black exercises in Australia and last year sent a warship to the South China Sea for the first time in 20 years.

“We want to demonstrate that we can be in Asia within a day,” Lt Gen Ingo Gerhartz, the air force’s chief of staff, said after the force of fighters, multi-role jets and transport planes left Germany.

The aircraft will also take part in exercises with their Australian and Singaporean counterparts, with smaller air fleets visiting Japan and South Korea.

Sun Keqin, a research fellow at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said Germany had made a shift in its security policy after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February “broke some restrictions”.

He said the deployment comes against the backdrop of Nato declaring that China was a systemic “challenge” – the first time the alliance had mentioned the country in its mission statement.

“The Indo-Pacific is the focus of the US and it shows Germany is coordinating with the US, which is a rival of China’s,” Sun said,

He also said the German deployment was “unnecessary” because, unlike France, it has no territories in the Pacific.

“Under normal circumstances, there is absolutely no need to engage in this move, and Germany has a lot of trade here. Showing military power after World War II does not present a positive image, it is easy to make people think of the deployment as signalling a shift to military power,” he said.

Meanwhile, France sent planes from Europe to its overseas territory of New Caledonia, a mission it said was designed to show its ability to project air power over long distances.

To achieve this unprecedented 16,600-km deployment, the Air Force contingent made a technical stopover in India.

Emmanuel Lenain, the French ambassador to India, said: “France is a resident power of the Indo-Pacific, and this ambitious long-distance air power projection demonstrates our commitment to the region and our partners.”

The planes will also join in the Pitch Black exercises in Australia and the embassy said the mission shows that the security situation in Europe has not diminished the French and European commitment in the Indo-Pacific.

Antoine Bondaz, a research fellow with the Strategic Research Foundation in Paris, said force projection by the France Air Force to the Indo-Pacific is not new, and the deployments are “generally it’s a message of determination and credibility of our military forces”.